I went to Columbus to testify against the voting changes in House Bill 41. The bill had a substitute which I was not prepared for, but my testimony focused on all the changes that need to be addressed with regard to voting in Ohio. The new substitute bill would eliminate the two forms that a voter needs to fill out in order to vote early in person (Good news). It requires the individual to be asked for identification for early voting (bad news). If the person does not have the proper identification they will have to fill out the second piece of paper (more bad news) that allows them to vote with the last four digits of their social security number.
Our issue is that because the state has been sticklers with filling out the proper paperwork, every piece of paper or piece of information collected is more of a chance that the ballot will be thrown away. Hell, they were throwing away provisional ballots because the person wrote their name in cursive instead of printing, so how do we know that this additional paperwork will result in the ballot being thrown away? The other question that came up was what is the point of this legislation? Why do we even need it if there is such a minor fix? There are major problems with the voting process in Ohio why don't they fix all those other problems?
We need voting legislation to do three things:
- Figure out how to get every legitimate citizens registered to vote.
- Figure out how to assure that everyone gets to vote either early or in person on Election Day without a lot of hassle or obstacles.
- Figure out how to get everyone who wants to vote but is forced to vote with a provisional ballot will have that vote count.
Based on the hearing yesterday, the State Legislators have not read Governor Kacish's new book about working to heal the division in the United States. The Republican members did not reach out to the Democrats to craft a bi-partisan piece of legislation. They would not allow amendments without providing 24 hours notice and they ignored opposition testimony because it was not based on the substitute legislation. It seemed to me that the Republican majority's opinion was that Democrats were stupid and all their supporters were stupid or dreamers and were dismissive of any comments.
Here is the note from Representative Kathleen Clyde:
I wanted to follow up with you after last week’s alert about HB 41. Yesterday, the House Government Accountability and Oversight Committee heard opponent testimony asking us not to change the ID requirement for in-person early voting. The committee approved the bill anyway without consideration of the testimony or discussion before the vote.
The amendment to the bill put back the ability of voters to use their SSN4 as ID if they don’t have the other forms of ID, but the unnecessary change will still inject confusion and burden voters.
Bill Anthony, former Director of the Franklin County Board of Elections told us, “If it’s out there that you need to bring ID, then that’s all voters are going to hear.” Nick Youngblood from the Ohio Student Association (OSA) echoed that statement and said “There is no such thing as a voting restriction that will increase turnout.” Craig Anderson, also with OSA, told the committee that as a young African American voter, he did not think the ID change was straightforward to urban voters.
Democrats on the committee voted No on the bill. I will remain opposed to the bill if it comes to the House floor.
It was good to see State Representative Martin Sweeney from Cleveland, but otherwise the Ohio Legislature was not listening to ideas for how to fix voting in Ohio.
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Here are my revised comments that I would have submitted to the substitute bill